Don’t write in books – except with a very soft pencil and then erase the marks asap! Don’t turn down the corner to mark your place! Don’t draw on the pages! Don’t break the spine! Don’t cut the pages!
I’m not sure how or where I imbibed these rules, but they are very strongly embedded. My sister says she often can’t tell if I have read a book, because I only open it a few centimetres and peer between the pages. I am still shocked by the American woman who turned back the open pages of my Tuscan guidebook, so that for ever after it fell open at San Gimignano. And by my friend who took a blockbuster to read on holiday, and tore it in half because she only wanted to reduce the weight of her hand luggage.
It was something of a thrill to experience books as the medium of the artists’ works on display in the exhibition: Beyond the Book: an exhibition of artists who use books as their medium. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was moved by the first exhibit, called The Book Shop.
This little scene was created by Su Blackwell, who also co-curated the show. It is about 15” X 10” ( 36cm X 22cm) and is made from ‘Deconstructed second-hand book in wood box with light’. In the booklet to accompany the exhibition she says
Using a scalpel, I carefully cut and fold book pages to craft intricate scenes evoking both childhood and possibility. New and unexpected histories and realities emerge through my alterations of the physical form and structure of the book. By producing books which combine a sense of loss and longing with playful humour and innovation, I simultaneously question and assert the importance of the weight, texture and design of the book in the digital age.
A scalpel, used on a book? On my! But I love the wit, the detail, the idea of making a book shop from a book.
And what about Ellen Bell’s creation, called On Reading?
I love the red shoes. It’s made from ‘Child’s desk and two chairs with Penguin Book butterflies and tap shoes’. Looking closely you could see the familiar orange covers of old fashioned Penguin Books cut into the shapes of the escaping butterflies. Like the book shop I am transported back to childhood, to that sense of books being the path to other worlds, escape, sample the mysteries of adult life. (For me it was ballet shoes, but I understand the red tap shoes.)
And another creation that explores language, written text and human responses is Drifting Attention by Jonathan Mathew Boyd.
I saw the exhibition at the Devon Guild of Crafsmen Gallery at Bovey Tracey, where it is on show until 8th June 2014. It then moves to London to Long and Ryle, in John Isip Street from 12th June – 17th July 2014.
If you are interested in books as objects of beauty you might also want to visit the website and blog of the Library of Lost Books. It reports on a project to rescue old library books, salvaging beautiful, old and unwanted books and sending them out to artists. ‘They come back re-made into things of beauty and wonder…’
Or if you can’t afford the price of the originals, you can buy made-from-books stuff at The Literary Gift Company. Among other things they have a page of ‘books made into things’.
Or you could buy a book about making art from books – if that’s not too self referring.
Update: having seen Norah’s earrings on twitter I add my Dutch Tintin brooch as a wiity little follow on for this blogpost.
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